Scottish Greens call on John Swinney to cancel all exams next year

The Scottish Greens have called for next year’s school exams to be cancelled.

Education spokesperson Ross Greer is calling for John Swinney to cancel the entire 2021 exam diet.

This follows reports that Mr Swinney planned to cancel all National 5 exams but go ahead with Highers.

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The Scottish Greens, alongside teaching unions the EIS and SSTA, have made the case for months that proceeding on the basis that exams will definitely go ahead next May presents an unacceptable risk, either due to disruption and school closures throughout the year or last-minute cancellations, as happened earlier this year.

Education spokesperson Ross Greer is calling for John Swinney to cancel the entire 2021 exam diet.

Ross Greer MSP said: “Highers are a critical qualification for tens of thousands of young people, so leaving even part of those grades up to exams which the Education Secretary cannot guarantee will go ahead is a huge risk.

“John Swinney himself has already acknowledged the huge logistical challenge presented by attempting to run exams, given all pupils must sit the exam at the same time but a maximum of only 50 pupils can be in any exam hall.

“This doesn’t even take into account the impact of any future local or national lockdowns, the huge workload that preparing for both exams and an alternative contingency would place on teachers or the reality that a month’s learning and teaching time in June has already been lost.

“The only reliable solution is to cancel the 2021 exams now and grade pupils based on their work throughout the year, avoiding both the risk of exams taking place during a pandemic and the chaos of last month’s grading scandal.

“The Scottish Greens worked hard to secure a fix this year which saw 75,000 pupils’ grades restored, we’d prefer to avoid the need to do so again next August.”

However, the Scottish Conservatives have said that all exams that should go ahead.

Planning on bringing the debate to Holyrood on Wednesday, the party say that the Government must make “every effort” to save the exams.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene said: “Going ahead with exams must be plan A.

“The SNP should make every effort to save National 5 and Higher exams.

“All other options should be exhausted before exams are scrapped.

“Nobody is pretending it will be easy, but it must be our central goal to give pupils a return to as much normality as possible.

“If the virus does impact plan A, we also need credible contingency plans, which we didn’t have this year.

“We cannot afford to fall into another mess like last year.”

The Deputy First Minister told Holyrood’s Education Committee on Wednesday that he wants exams to go ahead in the spring but that the Scottish Government faces a “dilemma” because of the risk of further coronavirus disruption for schools.

Mr Swinney said the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) is already working on contingency plans if exams are cancelled once again due to coronavirus.

Giving evidence to the committee, Mr Swinney said: “The very real risk remains that there may be further disruptions for individual learners, individual schools and colleges, or more widely across the country during the course of the year.

The Education Secretary is expected to lay out his exam plans next month.

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